Let’s start this homily with the leprosy described in the readings.
Leprosy is a skin disease; it’s fairly uncommon today,
and it is curable today.
So for us in rural Ohio in 2021, leprosy is no threat to our community.
But in Moses’ time, there was no known cure;
and when unchecked, leprosy would not only leave you disfigured,
it could cost you fingers, toes, and finally, your life.
So it was obviously a big deal.
But the real leprosy God cares about –
and wants you and me to care about –
isn’t something that disfigures our bodies, but our souls.
That, of course, is sin.
There is a huge mistake many people make about sin.
They – we – think of sin as mainly something you and I do.
It’s like breaking a traffic law: you went too fast,
you rolled through a stop sign.
Oops, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have done it.
Let me pay my fine.
So when this mindset is applied to the spiritual life, it’s like,
“Yep, I drank too much Friday night, let me go to confession.
Pay the fine. I’m clear, let’s move on.”
What’s missing entirely is the awareness that sin
isn’t only something I do;
like leprosy, it is something that becomes part of me!
Not only will this spiritual leprosy will change me;
if I don’t confront it, it will ruin me.
Here’s where leprosy isn’t a strong enough image;
because where leprosy infects your skin and maybe other organs,
sin corrupts our hearts and minds and transforms our very selves.
Sin contaminates how you and I see things; what we care about.
Sin is a leprosy of the soul.
Here’s another thing: one of the reasons leprosy is bad
is because you stop feeling.
Your nerves don’t work so well:
so someone with leprosy might put her hand in fire and not realize it.
And that’s what sin does to us:
you can put yourself into worse and worse peril and no longer care.
Now, I’ve reached the point in this sermon where I wish
I could take half of you listening over here, and say one thing;
and meanwhile, take half of you over here, and say something else.
So with everyone listening at the same time,
Please realize some of what I’m going to say doesn’t apply to you,
but to someone else here, OK? That’s really important.
Because when it comes to sin and repentance and change,
some people are like, “I’m on cruise control, I’ve got this,”
and they aren’t really taking things seriously enough.
They aren’t examining themselves…enough.
These folks could use to step up their spiritual life.
If this is you, you’re that guy who is driving,
and someone in the car is saying, “hmm…there’s a stop sign up ahead…”
Then, a little louder, “dude, you DO see that stop sign, right?”
Finally your friend is all in your face and you’re screeching to a stop,
and you’re saying, “Hey, why didn’t you tell me?”
So I’m telling you. The Lord is telling you: wake up.
Time to step it up!
But that’s only some folks.
Meanwhile, there are folks – and you know who you are! –
And what I just said is the absolute LAST thing you need to hear!
Because you’re at the other end of the spectrum.
Some folks don’t come to confession enough.
Other folks have turned confession into a torture chamber.
God love you, and he does! And I love you too!
And I’m telling you, I’m begging you:
stop tormenting yourself, in the name of Jesus, stop!
Some folks come to confession and treat God as a tax auditor.
God’s going to catch me not getting that right, and then I’m toast!
So I’ll go ahead and declare that’s a mortal sin, just to cover my bases.
The point of confession is not to pay enough spiritual taxes
to keep the heavenly IRS off your back!
God’s great purpose is not to catch you and me doing something wrong;
rather, it is to help you and me to become the beautiful,
heaven-ready saint that he longs for us to be.
Let me say that again:
God’s purpose is not to catch you doing wrong!
But to give you and me the grace we need to be saints forever!
So where some folks need to get moving;
Other folks, you need to relax a little.
Lent starts Wednesday.
Now is the time to ask yourself two questions:
Do I really believe God is rooting for me,
working hard on my behalf, to make it to heaven?
And second, what change is God calling me to make
to help me along the way?